Stereo Shoot-Out: Nvidia's New 3D Vision 2 Vs. AMD's HD3D

Nvidia 3D Vision 2 Vs. AMD HD3D: Comparing Hardware

Unquestionably, 3D Vision 2 is an upgrade over its predecessor. But now that AMD’s HD3D is a more viable competitor, how do the monitors and glasses stack up?

The question is more complex than you might imagine. While all 3D Vision 2 glasses are identical, the monitors are made by different manufacturers. When it comes to AMD’s HD3D, there is no glasses or monitor standard whatsoever; polarized 3D monitors like the LG D2342P-PN work, as do 120 Hz monitors with their own LCD shutter glasses ecosystems, such as Samsung’s 750 and 950 series.

On a related note, AMD says has been working on an HD3D certification process for some time. According to the company, it's putting an HD3D certification program together for displays, and representatives claim they should have something ready by late fall. Regardless, AMD’s HD3D initiative is a cart firmly hitched to Samsung’s 3D monitor horse, at least for the time being. That display manufacturer's 750- and 950-series screens are the only full-resolution HD3D options available in North America. Until other companies join the cause, Samsung provides an ideal 3D ecosystem to test AMD's stereoscopic solution. Assuming price and availability are comparable to the 3D Vision competition (and for now, they seem to be), AMD’s current reliance on Samsung monitors isn’t a bad thing, providing the hardware is great. If it's not, the consequences could be dire.

As for Nvidia, there are a lot of monitors to choose from, despite the identical glasses. We're certain that the Asus VG278 we have for testing provides a great example of what 3D Vision 2 can do.

Comparing The Glasses

Samsung's SSG-3100GB glasses are lighter and a bit more comfortable than the 3D Vision 2 glasses, but Nvidia’s option does a better job of blocking ambient light. Both fit comfortably over prescription glasses, although your mileage will vary depending on the shape and size of your personal eyewear.

From Left To Right: 3D Vision 2 glasses, Samsung SSG-3100GB glassesFrom Left To Right: 3D Vision 2 glasses, Samsung SSG-3100GB glasses

I do like that 3D Vision 2 glasses are rechargeable. When the SSG-3100GB's batteries run out, you have to purchase another CR2025 battery. Samsung does sell a rechargeable SSG-3500CR model, but it doesn't come bundled with the company's 3D monitors and must be purchased separately.

What about backwards-compatibility? Samsung’s 2011 glasses and displays do not work with its 2010 technology, despite appearing almost identical. On the other hand, Nvidia’s 3D Vision 2 glasses are interoperable with 3D Vision displays.

Samsung's rechargable SSG-3500CR glassesSamsung's rechargable SSG-3500CR glasses

The final consideration is price. Nvidia has a $99 MSRP for its rechargeable glasses (the ones bundled with 3D Vision 2 monitors). Samsung’s rechargeable SSG-3500CR is available for $80, but they don't come bundled with the company's 3D monitors, meaning you have to purchase them separately. The non-rechargeable SSG-3100GB that accompanies Samsung 3D monitors requires batteries and sells for $50 on Newegg.

Comparing The Output

A fully-featured 3D Vision 2 monitor, Asus’ VG278 features LightBoost and a rated brightness of 400 cd/m2. This 27” 1080p screen has a lofty $700 MSRP and includes a single pair of 3D Vision 2 glasses. It's armed with DVI-D, HDMI, and VGA inputs. Moreover, a pair of 3 W speakers are built into the enclosure.

We're using Samsung’s S23A750D to test AMD's HD3D technology. It is an LED-backlit panel with an advertised 250 cd/m2 brightness. This 23” display can be found for $400 on Newegg and includes a pair of Samsung’s SSG-3100GB glasses requiring an included non-rechargeable battery. It has DisplayPort and HDMI inputs.

Both displays deliver an excellent 3D experience. Despite the advertised contrast ratios, we prefer the Samsung’s factory setting (Asus' appears overly bright and washed out in comparison). Of course, you can adjust the settings on both screens. However, the Samsung display's picture seems superior.

Of course it’s difficult to put both of these models head-to-head. After all, one's a 23" display and the other's a much larger 27" monitor. With that said, we're amazed at how much light Samsung's glasses allow in stereoscopic 3D mode, and find it is very easy to see off-screen peripherals like your keyboard and mouse. 

We do find that the Samsung S23A750D is quirkier than its 3D Vision-capable competition, though. The first time we launch a stereoscopic-enabled game after rebooting the test platform, we often see a slight (but distracting) reverse-ghosting effect. This can be fixed by changing the input to HDMI and then back to DisplayPort, but it shouldn't be necessary at all. On one occasion, the glasses wouldn’t detect a stereo signal from the monitor until we pressed the 3D button on its base and chose the side-by-side option. Aside from those glitches, the screen served up a compelling 3D experience.

The Asus VG278 isn’t as crisp, but its significant 27” size is appreciated, as stereoscopic 3D is a dish best served supersized. It works consistently, and you aren't forced to play around with settings. As long as Nvidia's 3D Vision driver is enabled, you're good to go. As mentioned previously, 3D Vision 2 makes it much easier to see things that are off-screen. As such, the VG728 offers up the best, brightest 3D Vision-based experience we’ve seen to date.